Home » Environment » Pest threat to homes increases

Pest threat to homes increases

Pest controllers put this down to a combination of warmer, modern houses attracting rodents and poorer street hygiene since domestic rubbish collections have been reduced. The average British household now has the heating on their homes for close to half (5.8 months) of the year and rodents such as rats, mice and squirrels have sought shelter in houses from the recent harsh winters, which has led to a rise in rodent infestations in our homes.

Poor street hygiene has exacerbated the problem with over a quarter (27%) of households saying they have seen more rats and foxes in the past five years, during which time weekly bin collections have been withdrawn and food waste recycling has been introduced. This, along with the reduction and removal of free pest control services by cash-strapped councils has fuelled a pest pandemic in British homes.

Yet these pests are not only unpleasant and unsanitary, they are also damaging our homes. Among all households one in five (21%) has been damaged by rodents or other pests, which has cost more than £500million to put right.

In the past 12 months, the most common forms of damage have been caused by vermin chewing through cables (94%) or damaging insulation in the attic (93%), according to pest controllers.

Other common damage includes pests eating clothes or carpets (89%), gnawing pipes (77%) and damaging furniture (63%). Over half (53%) of pest controllers have even seen cases where pests have caused structural damage to the home.

In some of the worst occurrences one pest controller counted 220 rats in one property and another saw 500 mice in one house. One pest controller saw a bee infestation in which a nest blocked a chimney, causing it to fill up with gas, which later exploded causing significant structural damage to the home. One in ten (9%) pest controllers say they have dealt with properties damaged by fire caused by a rodent chewing through cables and according to LV= claims data, there have even been incidents where whole houses have been destroyed as a result.

Across the country, nearly three-quarters (73%) Brits say they have experienced pests such as ants, wasps, mice, rats, squirrels and moths living in their properties. The most noticeable increase in vermin sightings has been in urban areas. Pest controllers say that any home can fall victim to rodents and pests regardless of the type of property or the area that it is in. Older properties are more accessible to pests due to the increased likelihood of cracks in ceilings, outer walls, roofs and basements but no home is completely impenetrable.

Some home insurance policies exclude damage caused by vermin, leaving those who fall victim to pest damage without cover but LV= home insurance includes cover for damage caused by rats, mice and squirrels, within its optional accidental damage cover. LV= has also launched a new optional home emergency addition for its home insurance customers, which includes the cost of dealing with an infestation of rats, mice, squirrels, bees, wasps and hornets in the home up to £500.

John O’Roarke, Managing Director of LV= home insurance, said: "Pests are small but powerful and can wreak havoc in the home, from bees blocking chimneys and rodents chewing cables, which can destroy whole houses. The dangers of ignoring a pest problem can be devastating and those who find unwanted guests in their home should call in the experts before it is too late."

Have your say on this story using the comment section below

One thought on “Pest threat to homes increases

  1. I smell a rat!
    “You always have to think beyond the structure. Think about what is going on underneath and all around, because that is where the rats are located. The more you look into it the more you are likely to find.” – John Murphy, an exterminator in Pest Control Technology magazine.
    Visit any high street DIY store and you will see an impressive range of vermin repellent products giving you an indication of a booming market and problem every building surveyor needs to be acutely aware of.
    What is the problem?
    Rattus Novegicus, aka the Norway or brown rat.
    Rat numbers are on the increase as human population densities increase, warmer and wetter weather prevails and our nations increasingly slovenly refuse habits provide a constant food source. The presence of rats in types of properties from residential through to commercial can lead to very serious problems. Property owners and advisors need to be informed of these risks and given the appropriate recommendation for resolution from their property and construction advisors.
    Structural and cosmetic damage
    The term “rodent “means gnawing animal. Rats have very hard front teeth that never stop growing and with their genetic compulsion to gnaw will cause damage to the fabric of any building they occupy.
    This ranges from minor holes in walls, doors, furniture, cupboards through to structural collapse, flooding, electrical faults and fire (due to gnawing through cables).
    The author has witnessed 3 core insulated lighting cable in suspended ceilings gnawed through to the exposed copper. There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest rats like the slight warmth given off by conductor cables from the current flowing through it.
    It is estimated that 7% of house fires are caused by rats; yet very often traditional buildings insurance excludes not cover damaged caused by vermin.
    The life expectancy of a rat is approx 10 months. Litters of six to 12 young are born 21 to 23 days after conception. Young rats are completely independent at about four weeks and reach reproductive maturity at three months of age. A typical female rat can produce a litter about six times a year i.e. 72 rats in one year.
    Rats carry the potentially fatal Weils disease which is a bacterium carried in the rat’s urine. Rat’s urine often has a powerful ammonia smell which is a distinctive sign of a vermin problem for the building surveyor.
    Rats will stay at a property for 3 key reasons reason and that is a food and water supply and shelter.
    Things to look out for
    Rat droppings are on average 12mm and spindle shaped .House mouse droppings are much smaller, 3-7mm in length
    Indoor Smears – grease marks from the rodent’s body as they repeatedly brush up against objects. Nesting material — shredded insulation, paper, cardboard, plastics, etc.
    Defective drains. Blocked and sunken drains provide an excellent food source for the remarkably un-fussy rat, not least before you consider who much fat and left over food is also flushed through our drainage system each day. Be particularly wary of drains running directly under properties.
    Unsealed penetrations into the property. Holes into suspended floors and cavities provide a perfect route for rats to enter and nest within a property.
    Rats are incredibly resourceful and will eat pet food, feed from bird tables, burrow into compost bins, climb into dustbins (particularly as local authority refuse collections decrease in frequency), unsealed household recycling bins and generally feed on all edible street litter from take-away food restaurants etc.
    Control measures
    Despite the booming market of vermin deterrent products for sale on the high street, in most instances control should only be undertaken by professionals trained in the handling of poisons and dangerous and powerful rat traps that can cause very serious harm and or death to other animals and persons.
    Rats show the following characteristics: intelligence, ingenuity, aggressiveness, and adaptability. In many ways they mirror the building occupants they live with!

    Spencer Carroll MRICS
    Lighthouse Chartered Building Surveyors

Comments are closed.